Is It Normal For Tortoise To Shed Skin?

turtle shell shedding

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Do not get scared seeing your tortoise’s skin turning white, flaky, and patchy. The chances are that the pet is shedding its skin. But is the skin peeling normal for them?

Skin shedding is a natural event for tortoises. As the creatures grow, fresh skin starts forming underneath the old layer. So, when it is time, the old skin falls off, exposing the tender skin beneath via peeling. However, infection and dehydration can cause unhealthy skin shedding too.

Do tortoises need help with skin peeling? What is your role in the process? How can you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy skin shedding? Let’s find out!

Does Tortoise Shed Skins?

Skin shedding is not only a humane phenomenon but is also observed in animals. Take snakes and geckos, for example. These animals dump their skins around the year.

Apparently, tortoises also tend to shed their skins frequently. But why?

Well, skin shedding is an indication of growth in snakes and other lizards. Experts suggest that the snake’s outer skin does not grow with age.

Instead, the new skin tissue starts taking form underneath the outer layer. When the formation is completed, the snake discards the old skin via shedding or peeling.

The cause is the same for the tortoises. With shedding, the tortoises get rid of the old skin tissue.

In short, skin peeling is the tortoise’s way of rejuvenating its body and growing bigger. However, shedding has other benefits too. For example, dumping old skin helps these creatures escape infectious diseases and parasites.

So, do tortoises peel off their skin? Yes!

Is it natural? A big yes!

But sometimes, the skin peeling is not healthy and indicates diseases. We will talk about it in the upcoming sections.

Is My Tortoise Facing Routine Skin Shedding?

Of course, the sight of skin peeling can confuse any owner. Is the shedding healthy, or is the pet suffering from a disease? I am going to tell you some tricks to spot regular and natural skin peeling in tortoises,

1. It Is Not A Quick Process!

Tortoises can not shed their whole skin at once. The hard shell acts as a big bump in this scenario. So, the creatures lose the skins from heads, tails, and limbs in patches and flakes over a long time.

2. Starts In The Neck Region

Skin shedding generally starts from the neck region. As this portion is stretchable and flexible, the peeling becomes easier and less uncomfortable.

3. Skin Loses The Charm

As the tortoises grow new skin, the outer layer will appear dry, flaky, and dull. The skin patches are white with a gray tint. But apparently, the skin beneath the top layer looks fresh and healthy.

4. Itchy Skin

Tortoises might feel itchy and discomfort throughout the skin-shedding process. Therefore, you will notice the pets rubbing their skin against something to dislodge the patches. A warm water soak can ease the peeling.

5. Frequent Basking

Usually, tortoises, facing a scheduled shedding, bask for longer hours. It is assumed that exposure to heat and UV helps dry old skin quicker. Therefore, the tortoises can get rid of the discomfort soo.

How Often Do Tortoises Shed Skin?

Tortoises get rid of the old skin every few months. The skin comes off in batches, and it takes several days to dislodge the old layer. Well, the underneath skin appears healthy and fresh compared to the shed tissues.

My Tortoise Is Shedding Skin: What To Do?

First, check whether the shedding is healthy or not. Your tortoise is fine as long as the skin is coming off in patches and the underneath skin looks good. However, contact a vet if you are in doubt.

Do not interrupt the routine skin shedding of your tortoise. The flakes will come off naturally within several days. Your attempt to forcefully peel off the old layer will only hurt the pet. For example, wounds and infections.

So, leave the tortoise alone for the time being. However, maintaining pen hygiene is crucial during this process. Infectious attacks on the tender skin can cause irritation, inflammation, and discomfort in pets.

My Tortoise Is Shedding Skin Abnormally: What To Do?

You have nothing to worry about if the skin shedding is healthy. Do not intervene even when the pet is flaking off its skin excessively. The pet will finish the peeling naturally.

But yes! You can solve the excessive shedding rate by regulating the humidity content. Sometimes, the environment is so dry that it hinders the skin shedding of your pets.

In such cases, help the tortoises by increasing enclosure humidity. Soften skin tissues will come off without hurting your pets much.

4 ways of regulating humidity inside the tortoise pen are,

1. High-Quality Substrate:

The layered bedding in the tortoise habitat is not there for burrowing purposes only. Besides, the substrate has a bigger role to play in moisture retention. So, buy safe bedding that can trap just enough humidity to aid the tortoises in shedding.

2. Water Source:

Though tortoises can not swim, they need a water source in the pen for drinking and bathing. This source helps in maintaining a humid environment indoors.

3. Sprinkle or Humidifier:

Misting the substrate lightly with water spray is an excellent and cheap way to increase humidity. Installing an expensive humidifier will do the same job in a sophisticated way.

4. Soaking Hour:

Bathing the tortoise regularly is important to keep them hydrated. Experts suggest soaking the pet for 20 – 30 minutes twice or thrice weekly. A warm bath can assist the tortoise in shedding its skin in less discomfort.

Is It Safe Peeling Off Tortoise Dead Skin?

As mentioned, it is not encouraged to interrupt the skin-shedding process of the tortoise. You can end up causing the pet skin sores and bleeding. The injuries may lead to injuries and infectious diseases.

Scrubbing off the dead cells is also not suggested. You may end up peeling off tissues that are not detached yet. Also, there is a risk that your action can scratch the tender skin beneath the old layer.

Hence, you better allow the tortoises to shed their skin naturally.

Can Skin Shedding Be Unhealthy?

Unfortunately, not all skin shedding is healthy. Sometimes, the skin peeling indicates an underlying disease of the tortoise.

The signs of unnatural skin shedding are,

  • Discolored skin
  • Bleeding
  • Inflammation around the flakes
  • Shedding skin becomes more frequent
  • Rotting skin patch
  • Fly strike

Along with these symptoms, you will notice a change in appetite and activity level in the tortoises.

What Causes Unhealthy Skin Peeling In Tortoises?: With Treatments

So, tortoises can experience unhealthy skin peeling. This is unnatural and not expected in pets. As prevention is possible, you must know what causes the abnormal shedding and their treatments.

3 reasons why tortoises shed unhealthily,

1. Overfeeding

Obesity is real among tortoises too. Overfeeding these pets will make them gain weight, and at the same time, it influences their growth.

For example, you can notice abnormal growth in the obese tortoises. As the tortoises grow over time, they will shed skin or shells.

Controlling the diet routine is necessary to keep the tortoise in shape. Start by adding healthy items to the meal (vegetables, grass, weed, etc.). Remember, tortoises can not process high protein. So, avoid such foods at any cost.

As for the diet schedule, feed the tortoise hatchlings every day. Switch to a 5 days a week meal routine once the pet grows adult.

2. Infectious Disease

Bacterial, viral, or fungal attacks on the skin can develop infectious diseases. Inflammation, along with patchy and flaky skin, is often a sign of these illnesses.

The infected portion may appear discolored and bleed in some cases. Mushy texture and foul odor from the infection are also common.

An unhygienic enclosure and an uncovered wound are the primary causes of infectious diseases in tortoises. Bad microorganisms may enter the open injury and make the pets suffer.

Therefore, do your best to maintain a clean environment in the enclosure. Also, apply antiseptic and healing cream to any skin wound in the tortoises. Later cover it with a bandage.

3. High Temperature

An additional temperature source is always required for tortoises. The suitable day temperature range for these creatures goes way above 65F, and the basking temperature is more than 90F.

Though tortoises prefer a high temperature, a higher temperature than the mentioned range is not expected. It can dehydrate the pets, making their skins dry and flaky. As a consequence, the tortoises can experience unhealthy skin peeling.

The only way out is to maintain the ideal temperature range in the enclosure. For example,

Basking TemperatureDaytime Temperature   (Warm Zone)Daytime Temperature   (Cooler Zone)Nighttime Temperature
90 – 105F75 – 90F65 – 75F60 – 70F

Of course, the temperature range varies with tortoise species. Follow this article to get the perfect enclosure temperature for your pet.

Do Tortoises Shed Shell?

Yes, shell peeling is also natural and indicates growth for the tortoises. Scute shedding also helps these creatures prevent shell infections. Signs of healthy shell shedding are,

  • Discolored shell
  • Plastic-like flakes coming off from the shell
  • A fresh and shiny layer is visible under the patchy scute flakes
  • The shell is growing firmer and bigger

While healthy scute shedding does not interrupt the daily activities of the tortoises, abnormal peeling surely does. Generally, vitamin D deficiency, shell rot, MBD, etc., lead to unhealthy shell peeling in tortoises. In this scenario, the shedding takes place abnormally and out of order.

Peels with soft scutes, black pits around the wound, or foul odor indicate something is wrong. Consult a vet immediately and have your tortoise checked up.

Before You Go…

Do you know turtles, the close relatives of tortoises, also shed skin? Does the skin peeling in turtles indicate the same things as tortoises? The attached link will clear your doubts.

Do Turtles Shed Skin? Meaning Explained

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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